This is a good time of year. Fights break out on the streets over whether its “happy holiday” or “merry christmas.” people fight over whether the birth of their son of god person is fact or fiction, other people fight over tv sales and whether the 3 yr warranty is fact or fiction. jews go to chinese restaurants and have a far merrier time than the rest of us. christmas music assaults us. It’s 86 degrees outside.
but as we southern californians have christmas around the pool in our board shorts and wife beaters, wishing each other merry christmas (secret jesus club) or happy holiday (secret athiest club) or my personal favorite, “have a good one” (good 365 days of the year, broseph), may we all turn our pathetically short little retarded attention spans to something near and dear to my heart for a few moments – the humble Douglas Fir.
Consider the Douglas Fir. Named after David Douglas, an explorer botanist that roamed these western parts before the rest of us. (David was also the namesake of the Douglas Squirrel, so important – as you all no doubt know – in the caching of conifer seeds throughout California mountains.) David Douglas – no drama queen like John Muir – tops the list of our Heroes of Botany. He once faced down a pack of armed California aboriginals over a sugar pine cone because – and we salute this – it was delicious.The Douglas Fir will find its way into many of our homes this Christmas for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. But if you’re lucky enough to have a pine cone on yours, why THERES the real gift. Check that sucker out. Notice the curious third bract that only one other conifer in the world has (more on that in a minute), and rub your hand downward, with the grain, and feel the smooth velvety softness. I have a book on my shelf – and this is no joke – that has an entire chapter devoted to the joy of wiping your butt in the woods with a douglas fir pine cone.
In real life – ie, nowhere – the douglas fir is a companion tree to that indomitable force that is the (drumroll) coastal redwood. But here in Southern California we have neither, rather we have something called the Bigcone Douglas Fir, which is an entirely different species, and isn’t a fir at all, it’s a spruce. But it’s got big cones. And – this is the cool part- – it occurs nowhere else on our big green earth but right here. Not even in the Sierra Nevada. Our very own San Gabriels are covered in them, and you can’t miss them. Branches that stick straight out, the aforementioned giant cones, etc. And it’s got that wonderful third bract on its cones that looks like a moustache. Can’t miss ’em.
So while your fussing over various religious themes this year and draining your johnny’s college tuition buying widgets and racking up heaven only knows how much credit card debt buying tomorrow’s garbage, ducking the panhandlers ringing bells wearing furry red hats and wishing you could get to new years already so you can get good and drunk god blast it (btw we don’t drink here at launchday inc), consider this – the humble douglas fir.
Conifer of champions.
(Sources – California Forests and Woodlands: A Natural History, Verna Johnston; Silvical Characteristics of Bigcone Douglas Fir, Gerald Gause)